the revolution and space


In 1991, a Libyan thinker exiled in Geneva, al-Sadiq al-Nayhum, published a book of collected essays in Arabic with the provocative title, “Islam in Captivity: Who Stole the Mosque and Where Did Friday Disappear?”[2] The thesis of the book was not novel. A-Nayhum posited that the failure of modernity to take roots in the Arab world was due in large part to it having grown out of Western history and developed in a Western cultural and epistemological context, which is incompatible with the culture and knowledge nurtured by Islam. Al-Nayhum, predictably, advocated a return to the pure, foundational Islam to rebuild the battered and confused Arab societies.[3] This solution has been proposed by many thinkers before and since, especially after modern Arab states failed to achieve the promised socioeconomic development or military parity with Israel, which had scored a resounding victory against them in 1967.[4] Al-Nayhum, however, differed from other likeminded thinkers in his attention to the role of space in framing, sustaining, and ultimately molding the Islamic political tradition. His focus was of course on the quintessential Islamic space, the mosque, hence its appearance in his title.

more from Nasser Rabbat at Critical Inquiry here.